Microsoft to Dramatically Improve Windows 7/8.x Servicing in October

Posted on August 16, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows, Windows 10, Windows 8.1 with 0 Comments

Microsoft to Dramatically Improve Windows 7/8.x Servicing in October

It’s been a year of Microsoft dialing back the crazy when it comes to its attempts to force its customer base to upgrade to Windows 10 en masse. The latest example: In October, the software giant will belatedly simplify and improve how previous Windows versions are serviced.

One can debate the relative benefits of upgrading to Windows 10, but its servicing model—while controversial in some circles—is clearly a key improvement over the monolithic Windows versions of the past. Now, Windows 10 is serviced regularly, and as needed, with no waits for giant service packs, feature updates, or even regularly scheduled monthly security fixes.

But Microsoft still fully supports two other mainstream Windows versions—Windows 7 and Windows 8.1—at least on paper. And while we all kind of wink/wink, nudge/nudge each other when it comes to functional updates for these cast-offs—there won’t be any, ever—Microsoft’s customers still fully expect the firm to keep them up-to-date, at least with security updates. After all, Windows 7 is supported through January 14, 2020, while Windows 8.1 is supported through January 10, 2023.

The thing is, Microsoft has been playing a game. And that game is to make Windows 7 and 8.1 so miserable to update that customers—especially businesses—will collectively throw up their hands and come running to the shiny new thing in Redmond. Anyone who has had to clean install Windows 7 or 8.1 knows what I mean. It can be a day-long process.

Fortunately, Microsoft’s game hasn’t worked. The software giant’s efforts to upgrade the Windows user base have failed and it will not make its stated goal of 1 billion active Windows 10 devices by mid-2018. Sources tell me that it fell way short of its internal goals (and that, as I always suspected, Windows phone had nothing to little to do with that shortfall).

As a result, Microsoft has been dialing back the crazy. And that’s good news for the approximately 700-750 million fully supported PCs still running Windows 7 or 8.1. Because the firm is now working to make your life easier, not just make its life easier.

There were a few baby step towards this future back in May, when Microsoft released the eagerly awaited Convenience Rollup for Windows 7, an update we might more realistically call “Windows 7 Service Pack 2.” But as I noted at the time, Windows 7 updating is still very much broken, and the Convenience Rollup only marginally speeds the Windows 7 updating process. It does nothing, of course, to help those on Windows 8.1.

Related to that Convenience Rollup, Microsoft also revealed in May that it would move all “non-security updates for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1” into (yes, more convenient) monthly rollups. “We are making this change – shifting to rollup updates, to improve the reliability and quality of our updates,” Microsoft wrote at the time. But in effect, this change also improves the quantity of updates that Windows 7/8.1 users must face, at least marginally, and thus reduces—again, marginally—the amount of time it takes to get and keep such a PC up-to-date.

Now, Microsoft is taking the next obvious step: Starting in October, the firm will will release a single Monthly Rollup each month, for both Windows 7 and 8.1, for both security issues and reliability issues. But here’s the best part: Each Monthly Rollup is cumulalitive, meaning that each month’s rollup will supersede the previous month’s rollup. Yes, this in turn means that there will always be only one update required to get your Windows up-to-date.

Just like Windows 10, you exclaim! Well, not exactly at least not yet. At first, the “cumulativeness” of these updates will date back to October 2016 only, so you’ll still need to get your Windows 7 or 8.1 install up-to-date with whatever updates shipped before then.

But Microsoft says it will fix that issue, too.

“Over time, [we] will also proactively add patches to the Monthly Rollup that have been released in the past,” Microsoft’s Nathan Mercer explains. “Our goal is eventually to include all of the patches we have shipped in the past since the last baseline, so that the Monthly Rollup becomes fully cumulative and you need only to install the latest single rollup to be up to date. We encourage you to move to the Monthly Rollup model to improve reliability and quality of updating all versions of Windows.”

Indeed. This is of course what Microsoft should have done in tandem with the development of Windows 10. But at least they’re finally trying to fix things now. We’ll have to wait and see how it goes, but it looks like they finally figured out how to do right by the hundreds of millions of customers who have elected to stick with Windows 7 or 8.1.

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